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Alma Čizmić Clausen started the club to educate Bosnian and non-Bosnian children
Objavljeno: 23. Oct 2015. 15:10:41

There was something about being in Bosnia that called out to Elmedina Cupovic.

“It was like feeling that I belong there even though I have a home here,” the 10-year-old girl recalled. “It is my main country. I don’t live there, but I can always visit and meet my family again.”

A fifth-grader at Bellaire Elementary School, Cupovic was born in America to parents who had emigrated to the U.S. from Bosnia. They settled in the Carlisle area and raised her in the language, foods and holiday traditions of their ancestral homeland.

Lessons learned from an early age prepared Cupovic for a trip to Bosnia in the summer of 2014, where she spent six weeks visiting with relatives and discovering her cultural heritage.

Memories of that trip have stayed with her as she learns even more about the country and its culture as one of about 60 Bellaire students active in a Bosnia-Herzegovina Club that meets every Friday afterschool.

The club was formed in late September by Alma Clausen, a PTO volunteer who was born in Bosnia in 1973, lived there for 20 years, and then emigrated to the U.S. to escape the civil war.

“We had no choice but to leave,” said Clausen, who eventually made her way to the Carlisle area, where there is a large community of ethnic Bosnians. She settled in and is raising a daughter who is a third-grader at Bellaire.

The tree-lined streets and architecture of downtown Carlisle remind Clausen of her hometown of Prijedor before bitter divides tore apart her country. Though the war had a profound effect on her people, she prefers not to dwell in the past, but to embrace the trend of reconstruction and reconciliation present in Bosnia since the civil war ended in 1995.

Conditions have improved to the point where more refugee families are returning to Bosnia to visit relatives over the summer. Children of Bosnian descent born in America come back to the U.S. with stories they share with classmates.

Clausen noticed how the stories contradict the impression many Americans have of Bosnia, who only know of her country in the context of the civil war. “There is a lot more to it than that,” she said. “We are trying to recover. We are a good culture and a good people.”

Clausen started the club to educate Bosnian and non-Bosnian children on the rich diversity of her homeland. For 45 minutes every Friday, she offers up insights and answers questions about Bosnian culture, religion, history, geography, foods, traditions and language.

“I bring up the beauty both before and after the war,” Clausen said. “I am trying to see what the children are most interested in. They want to learn more about their Bosnian friends … Where they come from and how they play. Because they are so young, they are asking all these questions.”

Fifth-grader Naomi Keglovitz-Haynes joined the Bosnia Club because she thought it would be interesting to learn about a different country and to speak some words in another language.

During one club meeting, she had the opportunity to sing Ring Around the Rosie in Bosnian. “It sounded cooler than how it sounded in English,” the 10-year-old girl said. One Friday, Clausen passed around products made in Bosnia; another time, she showed a video of a traditional ethnic dance.

“In the beginning, I thought it was going to be all history, but it not just about history … It is about their culture,” Keglovitz-Haynes said.

First-grade teacher Janelle Green has helped Clausen with her presentations and to make sure the students behave. “We are friends outside of school,” Green said of Clausen. “She is a parent of a previous student.

“I have students every year from Bosnia,” added Green, who joined the club because she wanted to learn more about the country. “It is important. The kids are learning to respect other people’s culture. The club gives the kids the opportunity to ask questions.”

Green learned how there is a river festival held every year in Bosnia that encourages unity by bringing together people from a diverse blend of cultures and religions. Clausen mentioned how the capital of Sarajevo has all within the same city block a mosque, a synagogue and a Catholic cathedral.

“People are trying to fix this country,” Clausen said. “They are trying to bring it back. We may have a different religion or culture, but in the end we are still the same and have to learn about each other.”

Copy paste from: Joseph Cress The Sentinel,

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